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Crosby Arboretum marks 20 year MSU partnership
PICAYUNE, Miss. -- The Mississippi State University Crosby Arboretum celebrates its formal, 20-year partnership with the university on Sept. 15.
On that date in 1997 the facility was incorporated into the MSU Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine. Managed by the MSU Extension Service, the arboretum is an award-winning, internationally recognized native plant conservatory dedicated to research, education and preservation of plants found in the Pearl River Drainage Basin.
“The arboretum is regarded as the premier conservatory in the Southeast, and it is an important keystone of Piney Woods heritage,” said Pat Drackett, arboretum director. “It is a wonderful educational tool that helps teach people about our local ecosystems and preserves them for future generations. We are honored every day to help fulfill the vision shaped by the Crosby family and the Crosby Arboretum Foundation almost 40 years ago.”
The arboretum is a living memorial to L.O. Crosby Jr., a prominent forester, civic leader and philanthropist who owned the property. Crosby died in 1978.
The facility consists of a 104-acre interpretive site and more than 700 acres of additional natural areas. The interpretive site, designed to require minimal maintenance, showcases three basic habitats found in the local ecosystem: savanna, woodland and aquatic. The arboretum offers year-round scientific, cultural and recreational programs to the public.
Family and friends of Crosby worked closely with university representatives from the inception of the facility. In 1981, MSU botanist and President Emeritus William Giles served on the first arboretum board of directors, providing guidance for the development plan. Later, MSU botanist Sidney McDaniel, forestry professor George Switzer and landscape architect Ed Blake consulted on the site plan. Blake later served as arboretum director for 10 years, during a majority of the facility’s construction. He was instrumental in developing the site’s award-winning master plan. Bob Brzuszek, an Extension professor of landscape architecture, worked with Blake on the master plan and later served as arboretum co-director. He continues to be involved in design projects and other operations at the facility.
Lynn Gammill, Crosby’s daughter, said the arboretum’s nearly 40-year relationship with MSU has provided unparalleled expert advice and guidance, leading the facility to excellence.
“When our father died, we wanted to do something special to remember him,” Gammill said. “And we wanted to do it to the best of our ability. We did that. We understood the business side of the venture, but we needed help when it came to the actual knowledge of the trees and other physical design aspects. MSU is the perfect partner for that.”
Gammill and her brother traveled the world for inspiration during the garden’s planning and design phases.
“We saw a lot of what we didn’t want to do because it had been done already,” she said. “My brother said a garden with every kind of native tree would be fitting, and that’s how we settled on a native plant conservatory. We didn’t know in the beginning that it would be what it is today, but we are delighted with it. Our father would be very pleased if he could see it today.”
For more information about the arboretum and a schedule of upcoming events, visit the arboretum’s website at http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/.